Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Biggest Surprise in the Big XII
by Jeff Herr,posted Feb 13 2012 3:05PM
Well, the Big XII basketball season is 2/3 complete and suffices it to say this has been a season different than in years past. With no clear cut frontrunner coming in, the Big XII was just waiting for somebody to come and take hold. Texas seemed to be down after their usual NBA exodus. Kansas has the least talented team of Bill Self’s tenure as head coach. Missouri had a senior laden team but a new coach, new system, and lost their best big man. Baylor had the most talent but were still coached by Scott Drew And, Texas A&M seemed poised to make a run but faltered quickly.
While this most likely makes fans of these teams uncomfortable with all the uncertainty, it provides for an exciting conference season for the unbiased observer (which I am not, but I play one in this blog). There have been many surprises this year, some not as big as others, but we’ll take a look of some of the biggest ones this conference season.
University of Missouri – Mizzou can certainly make an argument for biggest surprise of the season. After the team quit on its coach last year most weren’t quite sure what to expect. They had the talent to be a solid team, but transitions can often get messy. After Laurence Bowers went down, it only made matters worse. However, Frank Haith got this team to buy in and they are one of the biggest surprises, not just in the Big XII, but the whole country. Haith has to be a solid front runner for coach of the year nationally and players like Marcus Denmon, Phil Pressey, and Ricardo Ratliffe have really come into their own under his tutelage.
University of Kansas – Kansas is a surprise in two ways. They are a surprise in that they aren’t in the same league as the teams that won 35+ games each of the last two seasons. They are also a surprise in that, even with less talent, they still sit atop the Big XII rankings for the 8th year in a row (although they are tied with Missouri and are currently losing the head-to-head). Despite a slip-up against Davidson, this team doesn’t have a really bad loss and arguably outplayed two of the teams they lost to (Duke and Missouri). The battle between the Jayhawks and the Tigers in Lawrence on February 25 will have lots of people watching and should be an exciting one.
Baylor University – By nearly all accounts Baylor should be high atop the mountain that is the Big XII conference. They have easily the most talented team of the bunch and some experience to go with it. What they don’t have is toughness, resiliency, and solid coaching. Generally, it takes no more than one punch in the mouth and Baylor goes down. A solid run by a team putting them up by 10 points or so at and Baylor changes. Their body language goes limp and they just try to get out of the building as soon as possible. If Frank Haith, Bill Self, Frank Martin or any other of the Big XII coaches were to take over Baylor, I feel like they might still be undefeated. As it stands, Baylor is cruising towards a third or fourth place finish with the most talented team.
Texas A&M University – The Aggies were a top 20 team in the preseason and got off to a decent enough start. Then they started conference play losing their first 3 and are currently 3-9 in conference. Most thought TAMU could compete for the conference crown if things fell their way, and they’ve proved everybody wrong. This team should not be where they are. They will not make the tournament this year and if this is any indication it might be a while before they’re back.
This brings us to my biggest surprise of the year in the Big XII: The Iowa State University Cyclones.
Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg has done an amazing job with the Cyclones. He has taken a risk on some transfer talent and it has paid off. If not for Frank Haith, Hoiberg would probably be getting a lot more mentions for coach of the year. As for now, his campaign is relatively quiet. At 8-4 in conference and a split with Kansas a Big XII title is still a possibility with two games against Baylor and one against Mizzou remaining.
After finishing 16-16 last year, I think some people thought they would be decent this year, but I don’t know how many were thinking title contention. They’ve beaten Kansas and Texas at home and played MU very close. For the first time in a while, that is not a bad thing. Barring a massive collapse, Iowa State will most likely make the tournament and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win a couple games either. With this program back on its feet and MU continuing to climb the old Big 8 days are flooding back and that is a very good thing.
There have been quite a few surprises this year in conference and those are only the ones I thought bared mentioning here. There are most certainly more to come and they could start tonight with the Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan between KU and K-STATE and Iowa State battling Baylor for what looks like second or third place honors in the conference. As fun as it has been to this point, there is still a third of the conference season to go and the Big XII Tournament to finish it off. The rest of February and March should be fun for Big XII fans.
KU's closer to KC than MU. KU has won a bazillion conference titles. KU won a national championship not too long ago. And yes, it's taking one heck of a season from MU while KU is having what would be considered a down year by many for both to be "tied". But, come on!! Turn on and listen to 610 Sports and you would think KU is the national #1 and God checks in daily with Bill Self to plan out his day. And if MU and KU have the same record, but MU has beaten KU already, are they really tied? Isn't MU up a 1/2 game on KU? Which would really mean they aren't tied at all? P.S. I'm not a Mizzou alum.